Sheriff Strange informs God Emperor Doom about current events. The good news: no reports of any major incidents from the Shield in the last week. There were a few minor skirmishes in the kingdoms: The Inferno smolders as usual. The green behemoth rages. They have scattered reports of a traveler illegally crossing kingdom borders in mutant territory, but inquisitors have been dispatched and he awaits further information.
Oh, and while Baron Sinister made good on the restitution he owed Higher Avalon, he could not resist taunting the Braddock clan on their recent loss. He had a most… unflattering statue of Baron James constructed and delivered. Sooner or later, they are going to have to give the man the slap he deserves.
Why does he bother with this? Doom asks him. What does he mean? Strange shoots back. He knows full well what he means, Doom insists. This banality… this tedious record keeping of minor transgressions. No more tedious than this disagreement they have had many times, Strange replies. He knows full well why he does this. Doom is omnipotent, not omniscient. The danger to his throne and the world – the last world – comes from what they do not know. Yes Doom agrees, but this is a world like any other world of old… full of danger. And they will face such things as they have always done: together and in the order in which they present themselves. He remembers all their disagreements. And Stephen’s reports still concern him little.
He’s in a damn tricky mood today, isn’t he? Strange breaks his usual form of address. The troubles of God are infinite and beyond man’s understanding, but it wouldn’t take a god to divine that this day this also goes for Stephen, Doom replies. What’s wrong, old friend?
Strange replies that, like everyone on this world, he knows Doom is God but unlike them he remembers what was. He remembers the two of them making all of this. Saving what they could. Creating what they could not. And when they disagree, he remembers that he could have been God and not Doom.
They head outside into a park. Doom reminds him that he could have been God. Strange does remember and still doesn’t want it but it reminds him how precious what they have left is so he guards it fiercely.
Which is why he is not concerned, Doom points out. He does not know everything but he knows Stephen is out there… keeping what should be hidden, uncovering what should be known. He has the favor of an all-powerful god. The full favor of Doom.
As they pass a statue erected in honor of the Molecule Man, Owen Reece, Stephen thanks him. Do they have any other pressing business? Doom asks. That moment, Stephen receives news. The unknown becoming known, he is afraid. Foreboding news from Doomgard.
Several Thors and Strange arrive to find the dead old Thor. Strange asks the young Thor, who was present as well, if he is sure he saw right? They came out of the vessel, the young man insists.
Uncertain, Strange calls upon a magical eye. Once he had another eye, he remarks but it was lost some time ago. God Doom saw it fit to give him a better one, all-seeing, and what he sees here is not of this time, not of this world. And now he also sees they are not alone. He disperses the eye and asks how many there were. The young Thor is uncertain.
Another Thor has searched for tracks and believes it to be six or seven. Tracks leading south, away from the vessel. The attack happened two hours ago. Assume they are strong and fast. If they walked, for one hundred leagues. If they flew, four times that. Strange gives order to find them and bring him someone alive. God will have questions.
He asks the young Thor if he is ready. He doesn’t know, it’s his first day… it wasn’t supposed to be like this. Strange replies every day was like this. Bringing order to a thing takes great effort and has a high cost. He raises the body of the dead Thor, telling him to rest well. He has earned it.
He turns to the vessel’s entrance and gives order for their hidden friend to come out. They are alone. Don’t make him come in there.
Miles Morales hesitatingly peers out. He comes in peace, okay? Miles tells his story. He has no idea what happened or what’s going on. The last thing he remembers was sneaking on –
He’s been aboard the vessel the whole time? Strange interrupts. Who were the others on his ship? It wasn’t his ship and he has no idea who those guys are. He just snuck aboard because he wanted to learn what those bad guys were doing in that giant dome. Because another world had appeared in the sky and the dome opened and—
A world in the sky? Strange repeats. Is he telling him… he remembers?
Susan Storm stands atop one of the castle’s towers looking at the Galactus sentinel, atop whose hands her children Franklin and Valeria play. Doom joins her musing about forgotten myths of mortals building towers so they could be closer to God. The stairs are unnecessary. He would meet her wherever she chooses.
Susan tells him she was walking in the square today and they have a brief argument about her walking outside alone. After she makes it clear she can take care of herself, she continues that the retinues of the upper and lower kingdoms were walking and they were singing a song about the man in the sun. Does he know about this? He has not heard it sung but he is aware of this. Why hasn’t he discouraged it? Because he hoped she’d hear it and be pleased.
Sue admits she misses him. Victor knows but her brother defied them. He would have struck Jonathan down where he stood, or worse, sent him to the Shield, but he left his punishment up to her. She chose to lift him up and bring light to what was a too dark self-illuminated world. So now he is the sun.
Susan believes she acted right. He was a dissident and would have pulled them down, but still she loved him and wanted to somehow honor him. Doom tells her she should have listened more closely to the song. There are those in the upper and lower kingdoms who worship him. It is no small thing to be worshipped.
Sue muses there was a time before all that fuss when many believed there was no sun because he was offended at the idea of something shining brighter than him in the sky. The idea is offensive, he agrees. But true. And truth is always the sharpest blade. It always cuts the deepest. Earlier, Stephen mentioned that he seemed troubled. He was right. But the strong man can show very few his wounds. Doom can show only one. He asks her to look at him. He has changed. Changed for the better, Sue tells him.
He continues he has told her his secrets. She knows he wasn’t always a god. He believed in the rightness of him. Given his gift to shape all of reality, he would make something better than the shapers of old. And yet, look at what it actually is. Sue tells him they all make mistakes. She misunderstands, Doom replies. There is no flaw in the world – it is the world he wanted. But his people are restless because he fails to properly inspire them. He is a poor God. He thinks that, once having made the world, he should have removed himself. Perhaps the gods of old had it right. It is better to be unseen, demanding faith and beyond being defined by the mundane. He is beginning to think that, in his perfect world, he is the one flawed thing. Susan disagrees.
He reminds her he is flawed. All this power and he still cannot heal his face. She carefully removes his face plate. She remembers when they found each other. She remembers choosing him. Not because of how he looked but because of his mind and heart. And when she found out what he had done to save them all… She knows him better than anyone and he couldn’t be more wrong. He shouldn’t remove himself. He should meet the people in the streets. Show them his real strength. Take the mask off. So they can see this? he asks, referring to his scarred and mutilated face. So they can see what she sees. A God with great love for his people.
The hidden Isle of Agamotto
Strange teleports into the castle with young Thor and Miles Morales. It’s his Sanctum Sanctorum, he explains, a safe place from prying eyes and a remembrance of all things lost.
Strange presses a button on the wall. God Doom has made a world of many wonders, he continues. He has seen mirrors of those he has known living different lives or strangely similar ones. For example, much of what was a place called Wakanda can be found in the Upper Kingdom both in design and function.
When he saw the vessel the Thors had found, he was not surprised… but to find it held refugees from the time before… Well, that requires full understanding. Miles looks down and bursts out he has another one.
Strange asks young Thor to open the vessel as he did the other one. He presses a button, and the hatch opens to reveal Star-Lord, Captain Marvel, the female Thor and Spider-Man. So are they there yet? Star-Lord asks. Because he swears it doesn’t look like they’re there yet.
Miles recognizes and greets Peter Parker, who asks how he is here. For that matter, how are any of them here? Carol Danvers asks. Last she remembers, the world was ending… and Dr. Strange is here… a man who disappeared months ago. What’s going on?
He wonders aloud if they are really from the same world. Carol tells him he sounds like an idiot, which seems familiar enough. Even if that were true, are they really the only ones who survived? he asks. Carol points back inside: there are a few more.
Cyclops steps out, radiating Phoenix Force and after him the Black Panther supporting a weak Reed Richard. Is that really him? T’Challa asks. Memento Mori? Illuminatus, Strange replies and finally shows emotion. It’s good to see him. The Panther asks how he survived the collapse. How is he here?
It’s quite a story, Strange replies. A long one but they built this craft to survive the end of everything… amazing. T’Challa sighs that there were defects. They lost people. Reed… he… They lost people. One second more… and maybe he could have saved them, Reed groans. Minutes ago, they were right here and now he can’t even tell them how much he— Oh God…
Where exactly are they? Star-Lord asks. Strange warns them the situation is far more complicated. It’s not just the where that should concern them but also the when. They’ve been in stasis… gone … quite some time. Well, he thinks an hour’s long, Star-Lord replies. He gets bored. How long is he talking about?
Eight years, Strange reveals. Everything died but, in the moment of death, God made a new world… this one. He constructed it out of the remnants of incursion points between collapsing worlds. Some of what they would call their Earth remains. Most does not. They should know that no one remembers the worlds before, just this one.
How is that possible? Spider-Man asks. It’s quite simple actually, comes the answer. Exactly how well do they remember eight years ago? Most of it is partial recollections, images, moments of clarity. At first as the world was shaped, it took constant effort to synchronize the new history with the old, but now it’s much easier. Especially since God controls the areas of study in the ministries of science.
Who is it? Reed asks weakly. Who is the God he is talking about?
Doom, Stephen replies simply. Victor saved them all. The heroes look at him like he’s gone mad. How long ago did he find their raft? T’Challa finally asks. Three years ago, Strange admits, eyes downcast. He knew there was something important in there, but he had to weigh that against other considerations.
Victor von Doom is a God and rules over everything in this world and he had to “weigh that against other considerations?” Reed shouts. What in the world could matter so much that he left them here buried alive? It’s easy to explain, Strange replies grimly. He is very, very good at playing God.
The members of the Cabal have gathered around a fire and discuss matters. Did they notice the sun today? the Inhuman prince Maximus asks. It’s his favorite kind of madness but he swears the sun is circling the Earth and not the other way round. Fascinating!
Proxima Midnight admits it is a strange land but hardly fascinating. Corvus Glaive adds they covered good ground today but this wasteland seems endless. He suggests they split up the next day.
Reed Richards from Earth1610 aka the Maker grimly states they should have done things differently at the raft. The yellow peasant seemed useless but that Thor, he had an aged look. They should have questioned him. Namor agrees. They should have kept him alive.
There is no need for mercy, Thanos opines. No need to regret what was lost. Oh really? the Black Swan mocks. Because he thinks if they just muddle along, they’ll somehow eventually find the answers to their questions? The answers will find them, Thanos decides. He knows it. And how is that? Namor asks. Because he is looking up, Thanos replies and looks at the horde of Thors in the sky.